It was October 2011 when developer Piranha Games and publisher Infinite Game Publishing made the exciting announcement that a new MechWarrior game was still in development, an online-focused free-to-play title dubbed MechWarrior Online. It released for the public to play in open beta last October and in full this September.
From the initial details on the game’s big plan of introducing a persistent universe known as ‘Community Warfare’, few of those touted meta game features have been realized. The game launched out of beta without its new interface and client improvements, without additional game modes and without any semblance of a world or universe to play in or more importantly, to play for, and the limited number of mixed reviews reflected as much. MWO remains strictly a PvP title, where 12 mechs fight another 12 mechs in one of two modes.
Fortunately, that 12v12 gameplay is fun, smart and dynamic. MechWarrior Online is without question, a thinking gamer’s shooter, but it’s debatable if the year-long grind to earn in-game cash and buying more mechs to wash and repeat is worth it for the non-hardcore fans. Where there is still no timeline for the release of the new client and interface redesign (dubbed UI 2.0), the latter is in public testing and will release in the near future. We have no idea however, when the community warfare features will release, along with new modes to support the gameplay.
One of the most interesting elements of the Battletech universe is on its way, unveiled over the weekend: the Clan invasion. So far, the mechs introduced in MechWarrior Online so far are Inner Sphere tech of the great houses from the lore. The game’s persistent universe was supposed to follow a timeline from the Battletech continuity but with slow development, it hasn’t worked out as planned. Still, the more dangerous and powerful Clan mechs introduced in the invasion changed everything. For the sake of balanced gameplay in MechWarrior Online, there will be significant needed alterations to the clan tech so previous mechs do not become entirely obsolete.
Dubbed ‘Operation Revival’, players can now pre-purchase the eight announced clan mechs in packages ranging from $30 for the cheapest to a whopping $240 for the collection of all eight mechs. The packages include three variants of each of the eight mechs along with additional bonuses including War Horns (presumably that play during the battle in-game), badges and cockpit items. The two most expensive packages also come with exclusive modules which screams of pay-to-win controversy. The purchased items will be available six months from now on June 17, 2014.
The announcement comes not long after the Phoenix mechs were released which highlights a major issue with the game’s economy. Expensive mechs keep coming, along with weekly sales and these pricey bundles – required to sustain a free-to-play game – but there’s still no more than two modes and no information on when the big meta game is coming (click here and here to see what we’re referring to). Even on the clan section of the official website, clicking on any of the mechs for more information on what the mechs actually come with brings up a payment screen.
In a time when microtransactions are a nasty keyword and source of controversy on consoles, with games like Forza Motorsport 5, Gran Turismo 6 and Ryse: Son of Rome earning some bad buzz as of late, seeing these pricey packages in a game that still hasn’t delivered on many of its initially detailed features must not be a good feeling for the early adopters who invested in the Founders packages when it all started. There are also a limited amount of $500 gold Clan mechs being sold so perhaps they’re taking a page from the crowdfunding success story of Star Citizen and the exorbitant prices for some of its ships. The difference is, MechWarrior Online is caught in a period of community disappointment. You can’t even read through most of its forums on any given day without seeing it, and I see it in-game frequently in chat.
For longtime players or players of old looking to return, the good (read: optimistic) news is that the beautiful clan mech artwork offers a potential tease of great things to come. We hope. Just seeing these units on the battlefield will be worth signing up or coming back and we hope it’s a sign of a bigger and better year of MechWarrior in 2014. The game has the core gameplay down, but it’s been way too long of a wait for the developer to support it with more.
MechWarrior Online is currently available for PC. Try it for free at mwomercs.com.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.